Synthesis/Regeneration 11   (Fall 1996)

Green Values and Presidential Politics

by Mavis Belisle, Panhandle Greens

About three years ago, a handful of activists in the Amarillo, Texas area met at an Earth Day celebration and decided we wanted to organize a Green chapter here. At subsequent planning meetings, we agreed to begin our outreach with a series of 10 Sunday afternoon discussion meetings, each centered around one of the 10 key values. As the meetings progressed, our excitement grew. We saw in the 10 key values not just a laundry list of ideals; we saw that they fit together each of the issues we were variously working on, weaving them into a blanket of radical social transformation.

Since that time I have used those discussions as a measuring stick for the various projects of my work, judging them by how they contribute to the integrated whole of the ten key values.

A recent computer conference by U.S. Greens has been discouraging for me because it revealed how little one of those key values—feminism—is shared by many other Greens. Indeed, how poorly it is even understood.

Feminism is more than gender equality. It is a specific lens—one of several essential ones—for analyzing patterns of domination within human society and in our relationship to the planet.

I first picked up the discussion in a reference to the Nader campaign. The thrust of the comment was that the campaign is introducing the Green movement to many new people, providing an opportunity to place information into many new hands. The comment noted that a description of the ten key values is often the first Green information seen and that many people are turned off by the word "feminism." As the electronic discussion continued, everyone espoused commitment to the "value" suggested by feminism, but many expressed discomfort and even hostility to the word. At least one chapter has eliminated "feminism" from its literature.

The objections fell more or less into two camps. The first feels that since the word is so "loaded," a more neutral term should be substituted that will ease the involvement of new people (read: potential Nader voters). The second objection is that the term is hurtful to some men, who interpret it to mean that they themselves are oppressors of women, and personally to blame for the effects of male dominance in the world.

The term has also been defended, both powerfully and eloquently, by both men and women. That strong defense gives me hope.

I, for one, do not care what Nader thinks or is able to publicly affirm. I do care about what other Greens think and believe.

For me, feminism is more than gender equality. It is a specific lens-one of several essential ones-for analyzing patterns of domination within human society and in our relationship to the planet. It is as futile to think that our analysis will be adequate without feminism as it would be without understanding economic patterns and structures or biological interrelationships and necessities. Our ability to shape solutions is bounded by our analyses of problems.

In essence, feminism is as pro-male as it is pro-female. But it is relentlessly anti-patriarchal, in every institution which expresses patriarchy. This power will never be captured by a "neutral" word or phrase.

I am reminded of the words of Freeman Dyson: "In the short run, if you want to influence events, you must work within the establishment . . .In the long run, if you work within the establishment, you will not change things fundamentally."

I hope we will use the Nader campaign as the organizing opportunity it is. But I hope we will not trade votes in one election for the ability to work on fundamental social transformation.

10 Key Values of The Greens/Green Party, USA

1. Ecological Wisdom
2. Grassroots Democracy
3. Social Justice
4. Nonviolence
5. Decentralization
6. Community Based Economics
7. Feminism
8. Respect for Diversity
9. Personal & Global Responsibility
10. Future Focus/Sustainability.

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